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Celebrating the Class of 2013: Kae Griffith

‘I am still amazed that I am here and that I’m going to graduate and I did it.’

Friday May 03, 2013


Like so many others graduating this May, 61-year-old Kae Griffith has had her share of life challenges.

A daughter with special needs. A mother who suffered a stroke. A niece fighting a terminal illness. What’s unique about Griffith’s challenges is that they have all served as her preparation for working in her chosen field. Graduating this May with her Master of Social Work (MSW) degree, the Griffith resident will draw from firsthand experience when she works with families dealing with similar circumstances.

Whether it was arranging for services her mother needed during her recovery, comforting a relative through a difficult time, or juggling her own needs while serving everyone else, Griffith now realizes that many of her own experiences were actually part of her education -- almost as if social work was the path chosen for her.

“Every part of my life, I believe the Lord has sent me in that direction,” she said. “He has given me those experiences to learn and grow. I have embraced the challenge, many times tearfully.”

For her undergraduate degree that she earned in 1996, Griffith studied Psychology and English Literature. She worked for a chiropractor for many years, adopted her daughter at the age of 40 and made raising her a priority.

While the journey leading up to her social work career was the culmination of life experiences, coming together to point her in the direction of her career, the trade-off was that to follow through, she faced the intimidating notion of returning to school later in life.

“I had to put the idea of going back to school on hold,” she said. “I got less inclined about the idea of returning to school.”

But her job was beginning to look like it was in jeopardy and so she began to think harder about the notion of earning her master’s degree for better opportunities.

She recalls telling an admissions counselor, “I want to get an MSW but it’s a three-year program. I would be 60 before I finished.”

But the support she got from others about the idea of returning to school, even at her age, was tremendously positive. She went for it and was accepted into IU Northwest’s MSW program at the age of 59.

Griffith is currently fulfilling the final requirement of the MSW program with an internship at Hospice of the Calumet Area.

Griffith has gone from trepidation about returning to school, to being recognized for her academic success. Recently, the National Society for Leadership and Success inducted her into the society.

Griffith’s philosophy is perhaps best articulated through a personal mission statement that she wrote as a class assignment: “Learn from my mistakes; embrace the obstacles along the way and learn from them as well; treat everyone around me with dignity and respect and as potential teachers.”

About the Class of 2013: Indiana University Northwest conferred 854 degrees at the 47th Annual Commencement ceremonies on May 9, 2013. The Class of 2013 collectively received 123 associate’s degrees, 606 bachelor’s degrees and 125 master’s degrees. More than a hundred of the graduates have earned their diploma with honors.

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